Joba Chamberlain won last night against the Rays, improving his record to 3–0 since the All-Star break, with a
.083 0.83 ERA in 21-and-two-thirds innings. Coincidentally (or maybe not so coincidentally), it was during this two-week span that the Yankees have at least considered trading away Joba to land Roy Halladay. (Or, at the very least, to raise the price should the Red Sox want the Blue Jays ace.) Brian Cashman, for all his high-profile misses, deserves credit for sticking with Chamberlain and Phil Hughes even when the likes of Johan Santana were available. Now, with the Yankees looking like serious contenders, we’ll see if he can really stick to his guns.
Right now, Chamberlain and Hughes are growing into the players the Yankees dreamed they could be. Would trading one of them for Halladay improve their chances of winning the World Series in 2009? Maybe. But Chamberlain and Hughes are just 23, and Roy Halladay is 32 and only signed through next year if he doesn’t extend his contract as part of a trade. This year Chamberlain’s struggled at times going deep into games, and Hughes had his off nights when he was still starting — but it’s still so early in their development that this is to be expected.
As good as Halladay is, the Yankees might have the next Halladay on their hands, and even if Joba (or Hughes) isn’t quite that good, they're both almost a decade younger. (Even smart baseball minds can be short-sighted when a name like Halladay becomes available, and yes, we read the lede of John Harper’s piece before writing the headline to this post.) It’s also worth considering that no pitcher is a sure thing to carry a team to the World Series, no matter how many complete games they’re capable of throwing. (Bona fide ace Johan Santana didn’t exactly put the Mets over the top, and CC Sabathia has been unspectacular so far this season.)
The Red Sox have been so good over the past few years because they struck the right balance between developing their own players and poaching ones from other teams. Right now, the Yankees seem to be finding that balance themselves. Cashman appeared to know this when he passed on Santana. By tomorrow afternoon, we’ll see if he knows it for sure.